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IFATCA joins with global partners to call for new guidance on drone operations

Important issue raised at ICAO’s 40th Triennial Assembly in Montreal

Montreal, 10 October 2019 – Airports Council International (ACI) World and its global aviation industry partners have addressed the pressing need for standards and guidance to address unauthorised drone operations to the 40th International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly.

ACI World, the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations (IFATCA), International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) and International Air Transport Association (IATA) presented a paper – entitled The need for standards and guidance to mitigate the risks of, and to improve response to unauthorized UAS operations – which stated that disruption to airport operations by drones is a matter that requires urgent attention by ICAO, States and industry.

In addition to the safety risk which comes directly from unauthorized drone – or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) – operations, several major airports have been shut down by drone sightings around the world and this major disruption has led to frustration for passengers and substantial economic costs.

The ICAO Assembly supported the working paper, recognizing the safety risks associated with the unauthorized presence of unmanned aircraft in close vicinity to commercial aircraft and airports and noted the offer from industry to assist in drafting suitable guidance material.

The Assembly was invited to request ICAO to establish a process to allow the industry to provide input to mitigate the risks of, and improve government and industry responses to, unauthorized drone operations, such as:

  • developing guidance material
  • developing a generic concept of operation that could be used by States to establish procedures, and,
  • defining taxonomy related to UAS incidents and accidents.

ICAO noted the offer of the industry to assist in drafting the above guidance material.



“The issue of unauthorized drone incursions is a clear and present risk to airport operations around the world,” ACI World Director General Angela Gittens said. “ACI is ready to join our industry partners to work with ICAO in drafting new international guidance material which builds upon existing standard, guidance, and regulations to protect operations and assist airports in responding to incidents. The industry needs harmonized processes for the detection of – and counter measures against – unauthorized drone operations that may interfere with international aviation.”

“The issue of unauthorized drone incursions is a clear and present risk to airport operations around the world,” ACI World Director General Angela Gittens said. “ACI is ready to join our industry partners to work with ICAO in drafting new international guidance material which builds upon existing standard, guidance, and regulations to protect operations and assist airports in responding to incidents. The industry needs harmonized processes for the detection of – and counter measures against – unauthorized drone operations that may interfere with international aviation.”

IFALPA President Captain Jack Netskar said, “It is critical that all States address the risk to aviation safety due to the unauthorized use of drones in controlled airspace. IFALPA has already produced some guidance material aimed at flight crew on what to do when a drone is reported or encountered with specific actions that can reduce the risk of a collision. We believe a collective effort by industry and regulators to mitigate these risks will lead to a harmonized set of standards and guidance for all stakeholders to implement.”

IFATCA President & CEO Duncan Auld said, “Air Traffic Controllers require clearer procedures for the handling of unauthorized UAS. Controllers are expected to make informed decisions based on established rules, without any ambiguity. A risk-based procedure will allow more practical management of these situations, where often the complete closure of an airport introduces significant complexity and associated risk into the ATM system.”

In addition, the Assembly reviewed a paper – entitled UAS Traffic Management – which was presented by ACI, IFALPA, IFATCA, and the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Associations (ICCAIA). The Assembly recognized the value of ICAO’s activities towards the development of a common framework for UAS traffic management and recommended that ICAO be urged to accelerate and expand its work on the development of a full regulatory framework for this.

The Assembly reviewed an additional paper – entitled The safe and efficient integration of UAS into airspace – presented by CANSO, IATA, IFALPA, which outlined the expected growth of the UAS sector, and requested ICAO to consider establishing a framework through which it can work with industry on developing provisions for new airspace entrants. The Assembly agreed that UAS should be a key focus of the assessment on new entrants that the Assembly will submit for the consideration of the Council.



Notes for editors

  1. Airports Council International (ACI), the trade association of the world’s airports, was founded in 1991 with the objective of fostering cooperation among its member airports and other partners in world aviation, including the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Air Transport Association and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization. In representing the best interests of airports during key phases of policy development, ACI makes a significant contribution toward ensuring a global air transport system that is safe, secure, efficient and environmentally sustainable. As of January 2019, ACI serves 646 members, operating 1,960 airports in 176 countries.
  2. IFALPA is the global voice of pilots. An international not-for-profit organization, IFALPA represents over 100,000 pilots in nearly 100 countries. The mission of the Federation is to promote the highest level of aviation safety worldwide and to be the global advocate of the piloting profession; providing representation, services, and support to both our members and the aviation industry.
  3. IFATCA is the recognized international organisation representing air traffic controller associations. The Federation has been representing air traffic controllers for more than 50 years and has more than 50,000 members in over 125 countries.
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IFATCA @ ICAO Assembly #40

The 40th edition of the ICAO Assemb​ly is underway at the organisation’s headquarters in Montréal, Canada. The Assembly meets at least once every three years and is convened by ICAO’s governing body, the Council.

During Assembly Sessions, ICAO’s complete work programme in the technical, economic, legal and technical cooperation fields is reviewed in detail. Assembly outcomes are then provided to the other bodies of ICAO and to its Member States in order to guide their continuing and future work.

IFATCA has observer status at ICAO and can make interventions. Below are links to such interventions made by our ICAO ANC Liaison Officer, Mr. Jean-François Lepage.

Video of the interventions, courtesy of the ICAO lifestream of the meetings, can be found here:

13th Air Navigation Conference – IFATCA’s delegation at work for you at ICAO!

The 13th Air Navigation Conference took place in Montréal, Canada, from 9 to 19 October 2018. It was attended by 1022 participants, from 116 States and 37 International Organizations. Over 300 working papers and information papers were presented and discussed in two committees.

Committee A discussed the technical items of the Conference: air navigation global strategy, enabling and enhancing the global air navigation system, implementing the global air navigation system and the role of planning and implementation regional groups (PIRGs) and finally, emerging issues. Committee B handled all safety related items of the Conference: organizational safety issues, operational safety risks and emerging safety issues.

IFATCA was well represented at the Conference by a delegation comprising the Deputy President, Duncan Auld, the Executive Vice-President Professional, Peter Van Rooyen, the Executive Vice-President Technical, Ignacio Baca, and the Liaison Officer to ICAO, Jean-François Lepage.

IFATCA presented 7 working papers, in partnership with other international organizations, on global runway safety action plans, on the concept of acceptable level of safety performance, on the integration of drones within ATM, on cybersecurity, on remote ATS, on commercial space operations, and on the protection of safety data and safety information.

IFATCA also intervened on eight occasions to share the views of the Federation on a variety of topics: role of the human in the development of the GANP, proposed update of Doc 9426 (ATS Planning Manual), certification of ANSPs, remote ATS, challenges in aviation phraseology, investments in ATM, coordination of flights through controlled airspace for space operations, management of fatigue for ATCOs, and global ANS personnel shortage.

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ICAO SID/STAR Implementation Support Team (ISSIST) officially launched!

SIDs and STARs have proven to be effective means of ensuring that the flow of traffic to/from an airport is as efficient as possible and that potential conflicts are procedurally and safely managed. This is particularly so when combined with optimum airspace design in a PBN environment. Additionally, they provide a means of prescribing and representing the large amount of information associated with the lateral and vertical profiles an aircraft is required to fly. 

However, over time, some of the benefits of SIDS and STARS have been eroded as diverging and sometimes conflicting meanings were attached to elements of the phraseology. In particular, there were reports of significant variances in the application of level and speed restrictions, leading to misunderstandings between flight crews and controllers, a number of incidents and a very real safety risk.

To mitigate this risk and at the request of the aviation community, work was undertaken by the ICAO ATM Operations Panel (ATMOPSP), with extensive consultation throughout the development process. The agreed outcome led to new SID/STAR phraseologies that became applicable in 2016.

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